These days, you can’t get too far in to a conversation related to publishing without hearing about the sad state of the industry: digital competition, shuttered bookstores, understaffed publishers, plunging profits. Where two or more writers are gathered, you can bet there is discussion about the difficulty of getting a novel published. How difficult! How unfair! How capricious! Suffice it to say, these are not the glory days, my friends.
Sometimes it feels like what’s the point of trying.
But lately I’ve starting thinking about things a little differently. As a writer of historical fiction it is my “job” to try to understand the past in context. And I’ve come to the startling conclusion that IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN HARD.
A few cases in point:
- Before the invention of the printing press (1450s) books were transcribed by hand–mostly by monks in candlelit abbeys. If you weren’t a sacred writer, you could pretty much kiss a writing career goodbye.
- Even after the printing press, only those who were wealthy and/or had considerable connections could get access to a publisher. The presses themselves remained expensive and labor intensive for centuries.
- During the Renaissance and up until the 19th Century, it was virtually impossible to be a woman and be published.
- And even in more modern times, writers (like my beloved Flannery O’Connor) wrote manuscripts on a manual typewriter. Can you even imagine making revisions on typewriter?!? No cutting and pasting documents in Word. I think that was even before the invention of Liquid Paper (click here for those of you to young to know what that is. meh).
- Before Kinkos and the internet, writers had to send their precious manuscripts by U.S. Post and hope against hope that it was not lost or damaged in transit (ie. there were not computer programs to save documents).
Sooooo, yes, it ain’t easy, but it never has been. Might as well sit down and write.